Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Oconee County Commissioners Agree To Purchase Land North Of Watkinsville For Administrative Building

***Following Executive Session***

Oconee County Commissioners decided Tuesday night to purchase 7.63 acres just outside of the northern boundaries of Watkinsville for a future administrative building.

The planned new facility will house the non-judicial government functions currently located in the Oconee County Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville and at the Oconee County Annex on Greensboro Highway on the south of Watkinsville.

The new 60,000-square-foot building will be at the intersection of U.S. 441 and Macon Highway across Macon Highway from Fire Station 1.

The vacant land is owned by Jacobs Properties LLLP of North Augusta, S.C., and assessed at $227,517, according to county tax records.

The Board of Commissioners, at the end of an executive session on Tuesday night, decided to pay $650,000 for the property. The money will come from the unspent portions of the 2004 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

The county says it has no timetable for construction of the building or movement of the county functions to the new location.

History Of Project

The Board of Commissioners has struggled for years to find a solution to its space needs, and money in the 2004 SPLOST had been designated for county facilities.

Site Plan For New Administrative Building

The current Courthouse now is largely dominated by the county’s judicial functions and is being expanded at present to accommodate both future judicial space demands and security needs.

Access to the administrative offices in the Courthouse has been restricted because of those security needs. The front door to the Courthouse is blocked for that purpose.

Similarly, offices in the Government Annex on Greensboro Road, where the Water Resources Department, Planning and Code Enforcement Department, and Public Works Department are located, are cramped.

The county also uses other buildings surrounding the Courthouse for administrative activities, including the for the Board of Elections and Registration Office.

Commission members have not been able to agree in the past on how to solve the space problem.

Tuesday’s Decision

Discussion of land acquisition normally takes place in executive session, and the Board has held many such closed meetings in recent months with land acquisition a listed topic.

The Board went into executive session following its regular agenda-setting meeting on Tuesday and emerged to make the decision on the purchase of the 7.63 acre tract.

Diane Baggett, communications manager for the county, sent out a news release late Tuesday evening announcing the decision.

“Consolidation of these departments and offices in one location will provide for increased efficiency and provide true one-stop shopping for customers,” Baggett said in that news release.

“The site, located across from Fire Station 1, enjoys multiple road frontages that will be easily accessible by residents in all areas of the county,” the news release continued.

The decision means the Courthouse remains in the county seat of Watkinsville, as is required, but the county’s nonjudicial administrative functions will be outside Watkinsville’s current city limits.

Watkinsville has extended its city limits to include Fire Station 1 and the Calls Creek Water Reclamation Facility, both north of the circular border of the city and near the new administrative facility property. Both properties are owned by the county.

Jacobs Properties

According to county tax records, the 7.63-acre home of the future administrative building was transferred from Sara D. Jacobs to Jacobs Properties LLLP at no cost on Feb. 23, 2001.

It contains no buildings, though the site plan released by the county shows two foundations for barns.

The land is wooded and is partially covered by a conservation use tax reduction for timberland, according to the county’s tax records.

Jacobs Properties LLLP also owns 22.5 acres across U.S. 441 from the site being purchased by the county and 7.1 acres north of the land to be purchased and between U.S. 441 and Summit Grove Drive.

I could not find Jacobs Properties LLLP in the corporate database of the Secretary of State of South Carolina.

Tuesday’s Meeting

I did not attend the Tuesday meeting of the Board of Commissioners because of another commitment.

Sarah Bell and Penny Mills planned to attend and record the meeting for me.

I learned of the decision on the purchase of the property following the executive session from the news release sent out by Baggett.

I will upload the full video of the meeting, including of the decision following the executive session if it is available, when I receive it from Bell and Mills.


Anonymous said...

Another John Daniell “after the fact” dictate. Complete with no statement directly from him to the press only one of his minions. No input from the citizens- just spending taxpayers money. In the past, meetings were called and a presentation was made BEFORE spending money. Commissioners listen to the citizens. From roads to roundabouts, now property acquisition and county projects without a bid process- is the crooked status quo of the Daniell and the silent BOC Commission.

I very much respect Dr. Becker and his invaluable reporting to the community. However, his relentless pursuit of the facts and holding government accountable has taken a vacation of late when it comes to the questionable and shady deals of Daniell. I understand your health challenges and all of us are praying for you and admire your bravery in facing your health to wellness journey; however, questions still need to be addressed. Everyone out there needs to wake up to the travesty our County is facing.

Anonymous said...

Thinking back to past land deals, how unusual is it for the County to pay more than double the appraised value of a piece of land like this? Would you say it is uncommon or is it standard practice? Smells a little fishy.

Anonymous said...

Oconee County money is not respected by Mr. Daniel. Owning land in Oconee County is also not respected by Mr. Daniel or the Board as they stole land from Doug Dickens Tuesday evening. Shameful. We need this group of commissioners and their leader to become a part of our community instead letting them continue to make their hidden decisions. This is not representative of the county that I grew up in and not the style of leadership that I trust.

John G said...

I searched in the Georgia Secretary of State for "Jacobs Properties LLLP" and they were the first result.

I'm tired of John Daniels wantonly spending money on things that don't matter.

Zippity said...

Actually, they paid almost 3 times the assessed value for this land. Although the SPLOST money is "left over" from 2004, the county has lots of land needs. This is a reasonable site for the proposed use, but they should not have paid this much for it with no discussion with citizens as to why they felt they had to pay this much. Very disappointed in them.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Dickens has land for sale in an accessible area, yet Daniell and BOC reject working with him. BOC turn around the SAME night and vote to buy an undersized, overpaid parcel that will not meet the county’s needs within 5 years. Mr. Dickens and the county citizens were ill used on Tuesday night.

Daniell and the BOC does not care to “learn” to be part of community. Their actions shows they need to be voted out.

Lee Becker said...

Thank you, John G.

The Georgia Secretary of State Corporate data base does list Jacobs Properties LLLP with registered agent W. Lawrence Fletcher and an Augusta address. It also lists Sara Jacobs with the North Augusta, S.C., address.


Anonymous said...

One of the county's Boards has badly failed Oconee County. It's a classic Either/Or.

The Board of Tax Assessors, David Francis, Greg Hayes, Danny Mobley, Jim Luke and Donna Smith, assessed the Jacobs property (out of state owners) for $227,517.

The Board of Commissioners, John Daniell, Chuck Horton, Mark Saxon, Mark Thomas and Bubber Wilkes, and County Administrator Justin Kirouac paid almost three times more, $650,000.

So either the Board of Tax Assessors severely underassessed the Jacobs property, costly the county tax revenue, or the County Commissioners and Administrator severely overpaid for the property, wasting county funds.


And why in the heck are there still funds remaining from the 2004 SPLOST?? Daniell can no longer blame King Melvin, who also sat on SPLOST funds for years. County Commissioners who've been on the commission for multiple terms (Daniell, Horton, Saxon and Bubber) need to take responsible for poorly managing SPLOST funds. Shameful there are funds still unspent from 15 years ago!

"I (Lee Becker) could not find Jacobs Properties LLLP in the corporate database of the Secretary of State of South Carolina."

Note: Not good that the county is going to pay over a half million to Jacobs Properties LLLP from South Carolina when they aren't even in the corporate database for South Carolina!!

Anonymous said...

Funny to see someone defend Doug Dickens. Remember when Melvin Davis allowed his friend Dickens to ramble on and one during a commissioners meeting?
Oconee County Commission Chairman Turns Work Session On Mars Hill Overlay Into Opportunity For One Land Owner To Complain

Here's another Doug Dickens Great Hit:
Oconee County administrators, to accommodate Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis, intentionally mislabeled $15,000 in expenses in giving a public presentation in June of a bill for added design work for Mars Hill Road.
Moreland Altobelli Associates Inc. billed the county $10,000 for requested design work to reconnect Old Mars Hill Road to Mars Hill Road and $5,000 for design work on a median break requested by businessman Doug Dickens.
In fact, neither Beshara nor Benko would identify Dickens as the one requesting the change in design for the median when I asked after that meeting.

“I have not been specifically authorized to discuss” the matter, Beshara told me.
Luke did acknowledge the median design change was to accommodate Dickens at the next BOC meeting on June 5, and he said the county had promised Dickens it would both get the design change approved and pay the $23,000 in additional costs needed to makes the changes called for in the design.
Dickens had told the county he would not pay the $23,000, according to an email message sent from Beshara to Benko and County Attorney Daniel Haygood on March 14.
He already had agreed to pay $32,000 toward the project–which he had initiated and was for his benefit–and donated some right of way requested to accommodate the design changes.
Because Dickens would not pay the $23,000, Beshara contacted Jane Stewart, executive director of the Athens Area Humane Society and asked her if the Human Society would pay the $23,000. That was on March 28.

Anonymous said...

Commission Past and Present work for their special interest groups. Politicians are bought and paid for by this group or that group.
Citizens and not heard or represented. Vote responsibly.

Xardox said...

Interesting the Anonymous writers.
Is there anyone who doesn't know who Xardox is?

Anonymous said...

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Jim Luke is on the Tax Board. It appears he is in place to help ole’ John Daniell and Company along in this deal making the people of Oconee will pay for. For all the folks that received an increase in their property values remember this property purchase at the next election. It is hard to feel that the Chair and BOC serve the people of Oconee County.

Anonymous said...

Is the new library going to be a part of this building?

Lee Becker said...

Anonymous 3:39 p.m.,

That seems likely, but nothing has been said about this at this point.


Anonymous said...

John Daniell and BOC are lacking the qualifications to have made a land deal of this amount. The lack of transparency and a proper purchasing procedure is closing in on fraudulent.